Tea as well as herbal and fruit infusions must comply with all relevant aspects of food legislation in terms of composition, manufacture and control. THIE has developed a Compendium of Guidelines for Tea as well as a Compendium of Guidelines for Herbal and Fruit Infusions which compile all relevant legal provisions in the EU and standards in force. The intention is to promote and set harmonised quality standards for different product categories in the EU, falling into the scope of THIE’s responsibility in order to promote a high-quality policy and avoid food fraud. Furthermore, these Compendia provide a basis for free trade of the products in the EU market and beyond. Through these Compendia THIE acknowledges the industry’s responsibility for food safety.
Tea as well as herbal and fruit infusions have to undergo a series of quality control measures prior to being marketed. Not only the final product is carefully analysed, quality control already begins at the earliest stage: when the small plants or leaves are budding. To prevent spoiling of these sensitive plants a consequent weed and pest management is applied on the fields and in the tea gardens. Member companies inform growers on possible hazards and teach them good agricultural and hygienic practices. Standards like the THIE Code of Practice to Prevent and Reduce Pyrrolizidine Alkaloid Contamination in Raw Materials for Tea and Herbal Infusions help to achieve these goals. Due to the global supply chains, it is not always possible to contact growers directly. Therefore, THIE builds on the cooperation with tea research institutes in the tea growing regions and agricultural institutions in different countries.
THIE and its members regularly inform growers on the developments of relevant EU legislation. Topics include, in particular, pesticide legislation, contaminants and microbiology. The dialogue with the growers contributes to a mutual understanding and enables THIE to feed relevant information in the legislative process at EU level. As recognized Codex observer and observer at the Intergovernmental Group on Tea of FAO, THIE actively contributes to international standards.
Analytical expertise is a further relevant factor of quality assurance. Laboratories specialised in the analytics of tea as well as herbal and fruit infusions are associated with THIE. The Association promotes the exchange of knowledge and encourages laboratories to participate in proficiency tests. Reliable results are important for the industry, the legislator as well as the consumer.
The companies joining THIE compile their analytical results on raw materials in monitoring databases. THIE runs databases on raw materials for pesticide residues, metals, pyrrolizidine alkaloids and tropane alkaloids as well as microbiological parameters both for tea and for raw materials of herbal and fruit infusions. This data reflects the situation in the growing regions and helps the industry to interact at a very early stage in case of need. Data on final products which reflect the consumer market in the EU are provided to EFSA as part of data collecting projects of the Authority.
THIE also initiates scientific projects and contributes to relevant studies of international bodies. Examples are the publication on Occurrence of 15 + 1 EU Priority Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) in various Types of Tea (Camellia sinensis) and Herbal Infusions and the publication on Transition rates of selected metals determined in various types of teas (Camellia sinensis L. Kuntze) and herbal/fruit infusions. A study on the deposition of atmospheric anthraquinone on tea plants done by the Max-Planck-Institute on Meteorology, Hamburg, will be published soon.
Food safety is a key issue for THIE and the tea and herbal and fruit infusions industry. Under the roof of THIE companies work together to steadily improve product quality and provide consumers with healthy and tasty products.